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If you happen to bump into Bill Gates or Tim Cook in Central Square in Cambridge, Mass., odds are good that they’re heading to the Engine. It’s a hub for startups operated by MIT, just across the street from the Middle East restaurant and club.

MIT announced the venture in 2016, as a way to supply funding and work space for companies building businesses around scientific and engineering breakthroughs — what some call “tough tech.” It can require five or 10 years of hard work to transform those kinds of breakthroughs from a successful lab experiment to a marketable product customers can buy. Gates has invested in companies that were born at the Engine, and Cook dropped by in 2017 to meet with some of the entrepreneurs.


The Engine has a $205 million pool of capital to invest — most of that from outside investors, with just $25 million kicked in by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. It has been three years since MIT hired Katie Rae, a former director of the TechStars Boston accelerator program, to run it. And it’s on track to soon make its 24th investment.

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